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Art and the Power of the RPG
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The advancement of video games has reached a point where the press is finally beginning to consider them a legitimate form of media. Most newspapers carry a regular feature that reviews new games -- if only weekly or so -- and profit margins prove that, at least economically, video games are a force with which to be reckoned. The most daring and liberal among journalists may even suggest that, someday, a video game might reach the plateau of "art." Of course, they hastily add, it will be a long time -- if ever -- before games can convey such universal truths or provoke such acute emotional reactions.

RPGamers know better.

In fact, RPGs already meet the criteria for being art -- or at least come closer than works of other media do. RPGs have a distinct advantage in this area that movies, television shows, other games, and even other books do not: their fundamental premise is the intimate sharing of someone's life.

Take Final Fantasy VII, which -- whether they adored it or loathed it -- a good portion of gamers finished. For fifty hours or so, they quite literally played the role of Cloud -- and to a lesser extent, various other characters. Fifty hours, spread over several months, is a long time. Fifty hours as knowing, playing, being someone else can have a profound effect on one's psyche.

It's no coincidence, then, that many RPGamers can remember what part they were in a game when they hear that segment's particular music -- as if they had lived that part. Nor is the hullabaloo over Aeris's death surprising. After all, players -- even if they were not too fond of her -- knew Aeris. They spent a great deal of time with her, they heard her conversations, they witnessed her past -- they saw her die. Character deaths in RPGs, so much more painful than character deaths in other forms of media, are just so agonizing because the player is intimately close to the character. This is the key to RPGs as art.

After all, one of the main aspirations of literature -- in particular, works written in the first person narrator -- is to have the characters appeal to the audience, to obtain emotional attachments, so the events of the plot have that much more of an impact. What RPGamers (and not very many other people) know is that RPGs are, by their very nature, ideal for this. Many authors labor over the creation of a character so three-dimensional that a reader can, if desired, walk in the character's shoes; role-playing games were created for this very purpose.

Perhaps the plots and character development of RPGs are not yet sophisticated enough to reach the level of art. However, if the press scoffs at the simple notion of it, they should scoff more incredulously at the thought of movies and television shows being so -- since their characters are often more stereotyped, their plots often more cliched; additionally, they lack the RPG's fundamental character closeness.

Don't worry, though. It won't take that long before RPGs fully realize their enormous potential of character-player intimacy, and the press fully realizes that this genre's advantage has made it artistic for a long time. Until then, we have our games, our characters, and ourselves.




Notes:
This editorial makes very good points towards RPGs being an art form but is a mite one-sided - there's no mention of any books or videos, many of which exist, that are as good at or better than RPGs at painting pictures, and many RPGs that aren't good enough to paint such a vivid picture. Additionally, there's a fair number of RPGs that either don't focus on one character or have little or no character development. As another point, RPGs are often, if not more, cliched that most films.

Quite apart from that, however, there's very little to be said - it's a good, solid editorial, with no spelling or grammar mistakes that I could see. It flows fairly nicely, although there's a couple too many pauses in the middle of the editorial, which rather breaks it up a little too much.

All in all, a nice, heartwarming editorial, though many feel it'll be a long time before the press work out that computer games are a valid entertainment and art form.

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